Capsules for the top 20 drivers in the Sprint Cup standings, plus five additional drivers of note.

By Jerry Bonkowski and Bob Moore

24 JEFF GORDON, Chevrolet

Team: Hendrick Motorsports

WHERE HE STANDS: Jeff Gordon remained in first place for the second consecutive week after Michigan and for eight of the last nine weeks. Gordon leads second-ranked Jimmie Johnson by 15 points and third-ranked Dale Earnhardt Jr. by 23 points.

SONOMA RECORD: 21 career starts, 5 wins, 13 top-5s, 17 top-10s, 5 poles. Best career finish: First in 1998, 1999, 2000, 2004 and 2006. Finished second in this race last year and was sixth in the 2012 race there.

LOOKING AHEAD: Gordon has become the most successful road course driver overall of all current NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers. He's finished outside the top 10 just four times in 21 starts. Here's his thoughts on Sunday's race: "I grew up in Vallejo - which is a few miles from the track in Sonoma - but I was always racing on ovals or dirt tracks as a kid. It was much later before I turned my first lap at Sonoma while in a driving school preparing for my first Cup start there. I immediately saw the challenges and the fun of racing at Sonoma and on road courses. We've worked hard as a team to be competitive on road courses and we've had a lot of success at Sonoma. But it's not an easy track to conquer."

LOOKING BACK: Gordon led 36 laps and for a while looked like he might have a chance of winning at Michigan, but fell back to an eventual sixth-place finish, part of four Hendrick Motorsports drivers in the top seven.

ETC.: Gordon has completed an outstanding 99.0 percent (2,123) of the 2,145 total laps contested in 21 career starts at Sonoma. His average start there is an outstanding 7.5 and his average finish is an equally outstanding 8.2. He has one DNF there.

48 JIMMIE JOHNSON, Chevrolet

Team: Hendrick Motorsports

WHERE HE STANDS: Jimmie Johnson moved into second place in the standings after his win at Michigan, his third win of the season and third in his last four starts. He trails points leader and teammate Jeff Gordon by 15 points and leads third-ranked Dale Earnhardt Jr. by eight points.

SONOMA RECORD: 12 career starts, 1 win, 4 top-5s, 7 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: First in 2010. Finished ninth in this race last year and was fifth in the 2012 race there.

LOOKING AHEAD: Johnson is not the greatest road course driver, and he'll usually be the first to admit it. But given the incredible momentum he has with wins in three of the last four races, Johnson is a favorite to win this Sunday in Sonoma. Here's his thoughts on going back to California: "We have a busy week leading up to the race at Sonoma this weekend. It's always nice to be able to head home to (El Cajon / San Diego area). It's going to be a lot of laughs with family and close friends - and great to see everyone who comes out to the golf tournament and helps (wife) Chani and I raise money for kids' education. This is a special week for me and heading home with a win is even more special."

LOOKING BACK: Johnson not only won his third race in his last four starts, he finally got a big monkey off his back by winning his first career Sprint Cup race at Michigan this past Sunday.

ETC.: Johnson has completed an outstanding 99.5 percent (1,320) of the 1,327 total laps contested in 12 career starts at Sonoma. His average start there is 16.2 and average finish is 13.4. He has one DNF there.

88 DALE EARNHARDT JR., Chevrolet

Team: Hendrick Motorsports

WHERE HE STANDS: Former points leader Dale Earnhardt Jr. remained in third place for the second straight week after Sunday's race at Michigan. He trails points leader and Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon by 23 points, is eight points behind second-ranked Jimmie Johnson and leads fourth-ranked Matt Kenseth by one point.

SONOMA RECORD: 14 career starts, 0 wins, 0 top-5s, 0 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: 11th in 2003, 2004 and 2010. Finished 12th in this race last year and was 23rd in the 2012 race there.

LOOKING AHEAD: Earnhardt is still in pursuit of his first career top-10 finish at Sonoma, which heretofore has been one of his worst-performing tracks. Here's his thoughts on Sunday's race: "Every year we would test at those road courses, Road Atlanta and here and there and work ourselves to death trying to figure out how to go faster at a road course, knowing good and well I wasn't going to run well because I don't know how to drive them. But I can run okay at the Glen every once in a while, but Sonoma, it's embarrassing, man, I haven't finished in the top 10 there ever. ... Driving around the track and running that particular race, it is fun, but at the end when you get run over or you don't finish well, you're so pissed off, and it's such a long way home. It's a terrible trip home when you don't run good at Sonoma."

LOOKING BACK: Earnhardt had a decent run at Michigan, a place he had won at twice before. Not so this past Sunday: he led one lap and finished seventh.

ETC.: Earnhardt has completed 94.3 percent (1,463) of the 1,551 total laps contested in 14 career starts at Sonoma. His average start there is 21.3 and average finish is 21.5. He has one DNF there.

20 MATT KENSETH, Toyota

Team: Joe Gibbs Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: After falling from first to second after Pocono, Matt Kenseth continued his downward slide Sunday at Michigan, dropping two more positions to fourth. He trails Jeff Gordon by 24 points, is one point behind third-ranked Dale Earnhardt Jr. and leads fifth-ranked Brad Keselowski by 23 points.

SONOMA RECORD: 14 career starts, 0 wins, 0 top-5s, 1 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: Eighth in 2008. Finished 19th in this race last year and was 13th in the 2012 race there.

LOOKING AHEAD: Kenseth is far from a road course ace. While he finishes most of the races he starts, he still has struggled when it comes to top 10 finishes.

LOOKING BACK: After finishing 25th at Pocono the week before, Kenseth rebounded somewhat to finish 14th at Michigan, including leading two laps. Here's his thoughts on that race: "Really it was about where I thought we would be -- it's about how we ran most of the weekend unfortunately. Just don't have it -- I don't know how else to explain it. We just can't fix it on pit road. We were pretty close now and then on balance, but just can't get within close enough speed of the leaders to be able to hang on to the track position even when the team gives it to me. It's disappointing."

ETC.: Even though his overall finishing performance is fair, Kenseth has completed a decent 98.5 percent (1,528) of the 1,551 total laps contested in 14 career starts at Sonoma. His average start there is 18.4 and his average finish is 20.4. He has zero DNFs there.

2 BRAD KESELOWSKI, Ford

Team: Penske Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: After climbing from 11th to fifth over the three previous races, Brad Keselowski remained in fifth-place after Sunday's race at Michigan. He trails points leader Jeff Gordon by 47 points, is 23 points behind fourth-ranked Matt Kenseth and leads sixth-ranked Carl Edwards by 28 points.

SONOMA RECORD: 4 career starts, 0 wins, 0 top-5s, 1 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: 10th in 2011. Finished 21st in this race last year and was 12th in the 2012 race there.

LOOKING AHEAD: Keselowski is still trying to hone his road course racing skills, and gets another opportunity to do so Sunday at Sonoma. Here's his thoughts on Sunday's race: "Sonoma is probably the biggest challenge on the schedule for me each year. I am not sure exactly what it is about this track. I am pretty good at the other road course (Watkins Glen), but Sonoma has been tough. It is a technical track that requires a lot of finesse and my driving style is probably too aggressive here. We have done some testing here and I do feel as though we are capable of performing well here. This team has been very consistent lately and our whole organization is executing well, which has us feeling confident in our ability to contend for a victory this weekend."

LOOKING BACK: Keselowski came up with his second straight top-three finish, backing up his runner-up finish at Pocono two weeks ago with a third-place finish Sunday at his home track of Michigan International Speedway.

ETC.: Keselowski has completed 98.2 percent (434) of the 442 total laps contested in four career starts at Sonoma. His average start is 20.5 and average finish is 19.5. He has one DNF there.

99 CARL EDWARDS, Ford

Team: Roush Fenway Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: After falling four spots to seventh following Pocono, Carl Edwards regained one of those spots after Michigan's race on Sunday, leaving him in sixth place. Edwards trails points leader Jeff Gordon by 75 points, is 28 points behind fifth-ranked Brad Keselowski and leads seventh-ranked Kyle Larson and Joey Logano (tied) by eight points.

SONOMA RECORD: 9 career starts, 0 win, two top-5s, four top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: Third in 2011 and 2013. Finished third in this race last year and was 21st in the 2012 race there.

LOOKING AHEAD: Edwards is starting to come into his own as a proficient road course racer, having finished third twice in the last three races at Sonoma. He still has a great deal of ground to make up in the standings after losing four positions following Pocono.

LOOKING BACK: Edwards typically runs well at Michigan, team majority owner Jack Roush's home track, but did not do very well Sunday, finishing 23rd. In fact, the entire Roush contingent fared not so well: teammate Greg Biffle finished 20th, while Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was 27th. Edwards' thoughts: "That was a big struggle. It was pretty tough, but we worked hard and didn't quit. Fortunately, we have a win to get us in the Chase, but we've just got to get better as a group. That's the way it is."

ETC.: Edwards has completed an outstanding 99.7 percent (994) of 997 total laps contested in nine career starts at Sonoma. His average start there is 17.8 and his average finish is 15.6. He has zero DNFs there.

42 KYLE LARSON, Chevrolet

Team: Chip Ganassi Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: Kyle Larson was one of two drivers to make the biggest gains in the top 10 after Michigan, jumping three positions from 10th and into a tie for seventh with Joey Logano. The duo trails points leader Jeff Gordon by 83 points, are eight points behind sixth-ranked Carl Edwards and lead ninth-ranked Kevin Harvick (the other driver who jumped up three places in the standings after Michigan) by seven points.

SONOMA RECORD: 0 career starts, 0 wins, 0 top-5s, 0 top-10s, 0 poles. This will be Larson's first career start in the Sprint Cup Series at Sonoma, which ironically is the closest NASCAR track to his Elk Grove, California home.

LOOKING AHEAD: Larson continues to wow and impress in his rookie season in the Sprint Cup Series. He has the edge over Austin Dillon for Rookie of the Year honors at this point and, even though this will be his first career start at Sonoma, could be a surprise finish for the 21-year-old. Here's his thoughts: "I'm really excited I like road racing a lot. I haven't done a whole lot of it so I don't know it 100 percent yet. I got to go do Bondurant (School of High Performance Driving in suburban Phoenix) last week and I feel like I learned a little bit that will help me a lot. I'm excited to get to Sonoma just because of the stuff that I learned at Bondurant I hadn't known really until now. I think I will be even better when I get to Sonoma. I did three Nationwide races (on road courses) last year and felt like I was pretty competitive at all three of those races. Really looking forward to going to Sonoma for my home town race. I get to see a lot of friends, go to a sprint car race nearby to go watch on Saturday night. It's going to be a lot of fun going home."

LOOKING BACK: After finishing fifth the week before at Pocono, Larson had another strong run in his first-ever Cup race at Michigan on Sunday, leading two laps and finishing eighth.

ETC.: Larson will be making his first career Sprint Cup start at Sonoma this Sunday.

22 JOEY LOGANO, Ford

Team: Penske Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: After falling three positions and dropping to ninth following Pocono, Joey Logano regained two of those spots following Michigan and is now tied for seventh-place with Kyle Larson. The pair trails points leader Jeff Gordon by 83 points, are eight points behind sixth-ranked Carl Edwards and leads ninth-ranked Kevin Harvick by seven points.

SONOMA RECORD: 5 career starts, 0 wins, 0 top-5s, 1 top-10, 1 pole. Best career finish: Sixth in 2011. Finished 11th in this race last year and was 10th in the 2012 race there.

LOOKING AHEAD: Like a well-tuned motor, Logano keeps humming along. Secure in the fact that with two wins he's locked into the Chase for the Sprint Cup, pressure is off Logano for the most part. But that doesn't mean he has stopped seeking wins. On the contrary, such as this weekend: he's still looking for his first road course win at Sonoma, and he's been practicing at doing so: "Honestly, one of the biggest things we do is the amount of testing. We test three or four different times on road courses like Road Atlanta and VIR (Virginia International Raceway). Mostly, it's for me to get back in the swing of things with lefts and rights, shifting and braking. But there are a few things the guys will do different to the cars and we test some of that stuff as well, like different brake packages and such. And we do a lot of that just testing and testing and testing. But I wouldn't say there is a whole lot different that goes into these races. More, it's the strategy during the race and how you play it, especially going backwards."

LOOKING BACK: Logano saw his track speed record broken in qualifying by Kevin Harvick. During Sunday's race, Logano led 29 laps and finished with a respectable ninth-place finish.

ETC.: Logano has completed an outstanding 99.6 percent (553) of 555 laps contested in five career starts at Sonoma. His average start there is 11.0 and average finish is 15.8. He has zero DNFs there.

4 KEVIN HARVICK, Chevrolet

Team: Stewart-Haas Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: Kevin Harvick climbed three places in the standings, from 12th to ninth, following Michigan. He trails points leader Jeff Gordon by 90 points, is seven points behind the seventh-place tie of Kyle Larson and Joey Logano and is one spot ahead of 10th-ranked Kyle Busch.

SONOMA RECORD: 13 career starts, 0 win, 3 top-5s, 5 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: Second in 2007. Finished 10th in this race last season and was 16th in the 2012 race there.

LOOKING AHEAD: Road courses, especially Sonoma, seem to bring out the most aggressiveness in Harvick. But at the same time, he's become a very good road course driver, as well. He is coming off a strong runner-up finish at Michigan and looks to continue that momentum Sunday at Sonoma. Here's his thoughts: "I think the biggest difference between Sonoma and Watkins Glen is that the speeds are drastically different. Sonoma is a much tighter course with sharper corners and a lot less speed where you don't really even use fourth gear, unless you're saving gas. It's a much slower track than Watkins Glen and the tires fall off a lot more than they do at The Glen. So, you've got to get your car to technically be very good as it turns the corner, but also keep track of the forward grip as you go through a run."

LOOKING BACK: Harvick had an outstanding weekend at Michigan. First he broke the track speed and elapsed time record during qualifying - in fact, he set and then reset his own mark in the three rounds of qualifying. Then he finished second in Sunday's race, disappointed that he came up short of overtaking race winner Jimmie Johnson.

ETC.: Harvick has completed a near-perfect 99.9 percent (1,438) of the 1,439 total laps contested in 13 career starts at Sonoma. His average start there is 16.3 and average finish is 15.6. He has zero DNFs there.

18 KYLE BUSCH, Toyota

Team: Joe Gibbs Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: For the second time in three races, Kyle Busch dropped four positions in a race, this time after Sunday's event at Michigan, falling from sixth to 10th position. He trails points leader Jeff Gordon by 91 points (he had been only 55 points behind heading into Michigan), is one point behind ninth-ranked Kevin Harvick and leads 11th-ranked Ryan Newman Carl Edwards by six points.

SONOMA RECORD: 9 career starts, 1 win, 1 top-5, 2 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: First in 2008. Finished 35th in this race last year and was 17th in the 2012 race there.

LOOKING AHEAD: Even though he has one win at Sonoma, Busch has had difficulty in many of his starts there, including finishes of 20th or worse in three of his last five starts there. Plus, he's coming off a terrible 41st-place finish at Michigan. He needs to regain momentum. Here's his thoughts on Sunday's race at Sonoma: "The road courses are fun. For me, I enjoy it. It's pretty cool to go out there and race the road courses. You get to turn right, turn left and everything, so it's fun. Sonoma is more technical just because there are more turns and it's a little bit slower. You have to concentrate on getting off the corner a little bit and have good forward bite. Sonoma is going to be fun, going out there and seeing what these cars have this year. It will be a fun race, though. I always look forward to going up there and challenging the road course."

LOOKING BACK: Busch had a terrible day at Michigan, ultimately finishing 41st.

ETC.: Busch has completed 95.2 percent (949) of the 997 total laps contested in nine career starts at Sonoma. His average start there is 16.7 and average finish is one of his overall worst at all Cup tracks at 20.4. He has zero DNFs there.

31 RYAN NEWMAN, Chevrolet

Team: Richard Childress Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 11th, only six points out of the top 10.

SONOMA RECORD: Five top-10 finishes in 12 starts including a second in 2006.

LOOKING AHEAD: Newman feels "Sonoma presents a different kind of challenge for us because track position is so very important. You get a very limited number of opportunities to make your car better, as well as make up track position. If you have one bad pit stop, it pretty much takes you out of the hunt. Sonoma presents a different kind of racing not just because it's road-course racing, but the number of pit stops we make."

LOOKING BACK: Newman finished 15th at Michigan. "We ran fairly neutral all day, but in turn three we were really loose, especially behind another car," said Newman. "Our biggest problem was we could never really go anywhere with it. I wish we could have earned a better finish, but we're still in the hunt (for a spot in the Chase for the 2014 Sprint Cup championship)."

ETC.: Newman feels the key to running well at Sonoma is "pretty simple. You have to keep it on the race track. You have to have a fast car. You have to do everything right like you do at every track, but you have about 13 different opportunities through the course of one lap to get off the track. There is no guidance or wall so-to-speak to keep you on the track, so hanging a tire in the gravel can really ruin your day."

11 DENNY HAMLIN, Toyota

Team: Joe Gibbs Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 12th, 11 points out of the top 10. Lost four spots last week to fall out of the top 10.

SONOMA RECORD: Two top-10 finishes in eight starts.

LOOKING AHEAD: Finishing a road course race has become a difficulty for Hamlin in recent years. He hopes to change that trend this weekend at Sonoma. "It is not that we've run bad," said Hamlin. "We've just got caught up in wrecks. I really like the road courses because they are a lot like short tracks, and I grew up on short tracks. If we can stay out of trouble, we'll be all right."

LOOKING BACK: Hamlin got loose on lap 122 and got into the side of Aric Almirola with both cars bouncing off the wall. Hamlin lost two laps while the crew repaired the damage and was never able to recover as he finished 29th at Michigan. "It was a tough day for us out there," said Hamlin. "We did the best we could with what we had but just couldn't seem to get the car right. This place is fast and the slightest handling problem is magnified because of the speeds we're running."

ETC.: With his win at Talladega, Hamlin is all but assured a spot in this year's Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship. But Hamlin knows he will need to run a lot better on the intermediate tracks if he is to be a serious title contender. "We are just not where we want to be on the intermediate tracks," said Hamlin. "We have to get better if we want to have any shot at it (the title)."

27 PAUL MENARD, Chevrolet

Team: Richard Childress Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 13th, 26 points out of the top 10. Gained four spots last week.

SONOMA RECORD: Finished 14th last year for his best finish in six starts.

LOOKING AHEAD: Menard said, "I enjoy racing at Sonoma. This year we are bring a brand new chassis, so I'm interested to see what happens. I wouldn't mind if we had a couple more road course races on the schedule to break up the oval racing a bit. Racing in Sonoma and Watkins Glen is a lot different from what we do week-to-week. I would say the key here (Sonoma) is keep the car on course."

LOOKING BACK: Menard finished fourth at Michigan for his second top-five finish of the season. "We had a really solid Pittsburgh Paints/Menards Chevy all weekend, from the time we unloaded," said Menard. "We needed some clean air at the end and the guys got me out front with some pit strategy and good pit stops and we came home with a top-five. So it was a good day. The clear air at the end made a difference."

ETC.: Menard ended a long Nationwide Series drought Saturday when he took advantage of Joey Logano's last-race problems to win the Michigan event. With four laps to go, Logano cut a right-rear tire and was forced to pit while leading. "I hate for anything bad to happen to Joey," said Menard. "We were better than him all day. I felt I gave it away on the last restart. It took us about three runs yesterday (Friday) to get it dialed him and after that I felt like we had the best car. My family is here with me this weekend for the first time since my daughter was born, so that makes it (the win) even more special." The victory was Menard's first in the series since 2006.

15 CLINT BOWYER, Toyota

Team: Michael Waltrip Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 14th, 29 points out of the top 10. Gained two spots last week.

SONOMA RECORD: Will be shooting for his fourth consecutive top-five finish and seventh top-eight finish in the last seven races. Won the 2012 event.

LOOKING AHEAD: Bowyer can't wait to get to Sonoma. "Michael Waltrip Racing has been really good at the road courses, especially Sonoma, the last couple of years," said Bowyer. "We need a win and Sonoma is certainly one of the places where we can get one. I know we are going to have a good car - we used it twice last year and finished fifth at Sonoma and sixth at Watkins Glen."

LOOKING BACK: Bowyer finished 10th at Michigan for his seventh straight top-10 finish at the high-speed two-mile oval. "Our car was really good all weekend long," said Bowyer. "It's just tough right now to compete with that horsepower they've (Hendrick Motorsports) got right now. That's a pretty distinct advantage when you look at the results on that. (Six cars powered by Hendrick engines finished in the top eight). Just incredible. That deal cycles, but it sure seems like it's pretty unfair right now."

ETC.: Bowyer has climbed from 20th to 14th in the standings in the last four weeks and if the Chase began this weekend, he would be among the 16 drivers in the Chase. "The good news is that here lately we've really kind of got our feet back underneath us and got some consistency back," said Bowyer. "Just like the direction that we're headed. We finally got our feet underneath us and hit our stride. That's good because we're out of mulligans."

16 GREG BIFFLE, Ford

Team: Roush Fenway Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 15th, 37 points out of the top 10. Lost one spot last week.

SONOMA RECORD: Will be seeking his third straight top-eight finish and fourth in the last five races.

LOOKING AHEAD: Biffle hopes the return to road racing means a return to finishing in the top 10. "Road courses have been good to us the last couple of years," said Biffle. "We need to continue that trend. We need to stay out of trouble and stay on the course. If we can do that, we'll have a shot at another top-10. We need one."

LOOKING BACK: After four straight top-nine finishes including two wins, Biffle was expecting to run up front at Michigan. But it never occurred as he battled major handling problems all afternoon and finished a disappointing 20th. "We tried a lot of different things, but nothing seemed to work," said Biffle. "We battled lack of grip all day. It was a long, long day."

ETC.: Biffle, who has failed to finish in the top 15 in the last five races, admits "it's been a little bit of a struggle for us this season. The cars seem to be so sensitive to changes and to having the combination right. And when you start to put in combinations - almost like a phone number - you start mixing those numbers around and trying to figure out the right combination. It becomes very difficult. We've had a hard time chasing that down and getting it exactly how it needs to be - and on top of that, we don't know how it needs to be. I like challenges and we have a challenge facing us right now."

14 TONY STEWART, Chevrolet

Team: Stewart-Haas Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 16th, 44 points out of the top 10. Gained two spots last week.

SONOMA RECORD: Two wins and nine top-10 finishes including five top-five's finishes in 15 starts.

LOOKING AHEAD: Stewart said, "I just like the road courses. I've always liked Sonoma. It's really a driver's track. It's tough to make your car drive perfect all day. You can have a really good car, but it's going to slide around and you're going to struggle for grip, and that's what makes it so fun. You have to do the work behind the steering wheel."

LOOKING BACK: Stewart seemed headed for a top-five finish when he suffered nose damage on a restart with 53 laps to go. Stewart was not as strong after that and ended the day in 11th place. "We had a way better race car today than we had all weekend here," said Stewart. "I'm really proud of our guys on this number 14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet team. We got nose damage when the 42 (Kyle Larson) got impatient there and blocked us, but we're gaining on it every week. I'm just very proud of the way things have been going the last few weeks."

ETC.: When asked why he seems to run so much better during the summer months, Stewart replied, "I honestly think it's my dirt background. It just seems like when the tracks get hotter and slicker, that it just plays into my driving style. I like the tracks to be slick and hot and how it forces you to search around. I think that's been the key to our success from day one."

3 AUSTIN DILLON, Chevrolet

Team: Richard Childress Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 17th, 46 points out of the top 10. Lost two spots last week.

SONOMA RECORD: Will be making his Sprint Cup debut.

LOOKING AHEAD: To try and get ready for his first start at Sonoma, Dillon said he does as much research as possible. He also has talked with Max Papis. "He has run there before," said Dillon. "I'll use notes from him. I'm going to go out a little early to run the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West race. I'll be out there a few extra days just to kind of get a hold of the track."

LOOKING BACK: Dillon seemed headed for a top-10 or at worse a top-15 finish when he ran into tire problems late in the race. Just one lap after making what was scheduled to be his final pit stop, Dillon returned to the pits to change left-side tires after feeling "something was wrong." Dillon felt the same thing upon returning to the track and headed back down pit road for a third straight lap to change right-side tires. As a result, Dillon ended up 30th. "I try to convince myself that luck isn't a factor, but today's luck sure didn't seem to be on our side," said a disappointed Dillon. "We were in contention for a top-10 finish, but that's just not how the cards fell today."

ETC.: Dillon knows he needs a good run this weekend to get back the two spots he lost in the standings at Michigan. But he also realizes "I definitely will be a rookie going there (Sonoma Raceway). I've never been to Sonoma. I'll spend as much time on the track as possible to try and get better as a (road course) driver. We'll work hard the entire (practice) time."

55 BRIAN VICKERS, Toyota

Team: Michael Waltrip Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 18th, 52 points out of the top 10. Lost five spots last week.

SONOMA RECORD: Finished fourth in 2012 for his only top-10 finish in eight starts.

LOOKING AHEAD: Vickers said, "Road racing is something I'm excited about. I think the time I spent overseas road racing really helped me a lot. I'm really looking forward to Sonoma - that is sort of one I have circled so to speak. There are certain tracks that you look forward to. I like to race there and the team has good cars there."

LOOKING BACK: On the second lap of the race, Vickers got real loose heading into turn three and spun and slammed into the wall. The car was severely damaged and Vickers was forced to spend considerable time in the garage area while the crew fixed the car. He returned to the race and finished 42nd, 90 laps down. "The car just came around going into three," said Vickers. "I wish I knew (what happened). I was just trying to back the corner up and was taking it easy and just got loose and it just came around from me. The car just came out from me. It's frustrating. We had a really fast car (in practice)."

ETC.: Vickers surprised a lot of people last week when he said "I don't have a car right now. Just a bicycle. I don't find that I need one in Miami or New York. It's just easier that way. If I need a car, I just rent one. I also don't particularly enjoy driving in traffic, so my lovely wife does that and she seems to like driving. I let her handle that. I just try to avoid the topic at all costs. Race car drivers are used to going as fast as he wants in the lane he wants, than sitting in traffic jam and being cut off by people and having someone in the left lane riding at 45 miles per hour in a 70 mph zone next to a tractor trailer. There is just nothing more frustrating than that. As far as street driving, I'm not a fan of it - especially traffic - and I try to avoid it all together."

5 KASEY KAHNE, Chevrolet

Team: Hendrick Motorsports

WHERE HE STANDS: 19th, 55 points out of the top 10. Gained two spots last week.

SONOMA RECORD: One win and three top-10 finishes in 10 starts. Finished sixth last year.

LOOKING AHEAD: Kahne feels "The Sonoma road course is so much different than say The Glen (Watkins Glen). It's definitely slower in the corners, and the pace falls off so much at Sonoma. I feel like at times you are at somewhat of a Martinsville type short track. Really everybody gets close together, and you are getting beat by wheel spin or not. I enjoy Sonoma. I think it's a great place to race and great country out there. I look forward to that."

LOOKING BACK: Kahne's day began very badly when he was involved in an early-race accident. But he rallied in the final half of the race to finish fifth at Michigan for only his second top-five finish of the season. "We really needed this top-five finish," said Kahne. "We made a lot of adjustments. It took about an hour and a half to get our car right. It was a battle, and it wasn't easy, but the guys did a great job with the Farmers Insurance Chevy. I was struggling for a while and then we got it. We were pretty competitive with the guys in front of us (at the end.)."

ETC.: Kahne, who visited the Minneapolis Children's Hospital last Thursday, said he has no desire to talk to Kyle Busch about their repeated run-ins in the last 18 months. "He sent me an email (last week) and then a text to see if I got it, and I told him I did and that's how it went," said Kahne. "I talked through every situation and scenario with him last year and to this day, I still race him the same way. For him to do that (at Pocono).... As far as talking, we haven't. But I really don't care anymore. I don't care to talk to him."

1 JAMIE MCMURRAY, Chevrolet

Team: Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates

WHERE HE STANDS: 20th, 62 points out of the top 10. Gained three spots last week.

SONOMA RECORD: Won the pole a year ago for his second pole position in 11 starts. He also has started second twice. But his lone top-10 finish at the road course was a second back in 2004.

LOOKING AHEAD: McMurray is another driver who really likes Sonoma. "I like the environment out there, other than the time change; there is nothing that I don't like about Sonoma. Historically, I have qualified really well, including winning the pole last year. I like road racing mostly just because it's different. I think the key to racing at Sonoma is staying out of trouble on the restarts. The rest is just about having a good car."

LOOKING BACK: McMurray ran in the top 10 for most of the race but was "on the wrong side of the strategy deal at the end" and finished 12th at Michigan. "We had a really strong McDonald's Chevy today," said McMurray. "We battled to the end, but we just didn't cycle out on fuel strategy to make a run to the front in the closing laps."

ETC.: McMurray wore a different kind of helmet last week - a NFL helmet - as he participated in some drills with the Jacksonville Jaguars. McMurray fielded kickoffs, took part in some typical football drills and ran routes and caught passes from several quarterbacks including rookie Blake Bortles, the Jaguars' No. 1 draft choice. "That was really a lot of fun," said McMurray.

47 A J ALLMENDINGER, Chevrolet

Team: JTG Daugherty Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 21st, 64 points out of the top 10. Lost one spot last week.

SONOMA RECORD: Finished ninth a year ago for his second top-10 finish in five starts.

LOOKING AHEAD: Co-owner Brad Daugherty feels Sonoma is one of the races his single-car team can win. "AJ is really good at Sonoma," said Daugherty. "We feel like it's one of the race tracks - and there's several, not just the road courses - that AJ and our team can win. We're going to go out there and be as prepared as we can possibly be. We will need to qualify well, run up front all day and have great pit stops."

LOOKING BACK: Allmendinger finished 22nd at Michigan. "We got everything we could out of the race Sunday," said Allmendinger. "I'm really proud of my pit crew. They are really working hard and had some great pit stops. We were just slow in the race. We had a decent balance with the Charter Chevrolet SS to start with and then we were just not great and lacking speed down the straightaway. We were hurting the balance trying to help the straightaway speed. We have some work to do on these bigger tracks."

ETC.: Crew chief Brian Burns is glad the team tested at Sonoma earlier this month. "Obviously, this is one of the races that you put on your list or your refrigerator that we feel like you can go run and potentially win the race. We showed up there and were very grateful that we got to test at Sonoma because when we did unload, we were pretty far off. We felt like last year's stuff that made us good definitely was not the answer for this year. After two days of testing, we walked away really happy and excited about going back."

43 ARIC ALMIROLA, Ford

Team: Richard Petty Motorsports

WHERE HE STANDS: 21st, 67 points out of the top 10. Lost three spots last week.

SONOMA RECORD: Finished 20th in 2013 for his best finish in three starts.

LOOKING AHEAD: Almirola admits, "I'm not an expert road course racer by any means, but I do like going out to Sonoma. You almost feel like you are on a vacation a little bit, other than showing up to the race track and having to drive around one of the toughest road courses there is. Sonoma is very slow and technical."

LOOKING BACK: After starting fourth, Almirola had high hopes for the weekend. And he ran in the top 10 for much of the first half of the race before getting caught up in an accident on lap 122 of the 200-lap event. "Unfortunately, the 11 (Denny Hamlin) got loose and came up into me," said Almirola. "We had nowhere to go and went spinning and ended up in the grass. Had we not hit the grass (and got stuck) I don't think I would have lost a lap and we may have been able to get a top-15. But we had to wait to get pushed out and lost two laps." As a result, Almirola finished 31st.

ETC.: Almirola is quick to point out "Having Marcos (Ambrose) as a teammate the last two years has helped me a lot at becoming a better road racer. My goal this weekend is to continue to improve our finishing position as we did last year."

9 MARCOS AMBROSE, Ford

Team: Richard Petty Motorsports

WHERE HE STANDS: 23rd, 76 points out of the top 10. Lost one spot last week.

SONOMA RECORD: Will be seeking his sixth straight top-eight finish.

LOOKING AHEAD: Ambrose knows he is going to have to win a race if he wants to make the Chase this season. And he also realizes that his best shot at winning a race is at the two road course races. That is why he is looking forward to this weekend. "We've been competitive every year at Sonoma, and we've come close to winning," said Ambrose. "We know this is one of our best shots, but we need to be careful not to put too much pressure on ourselves."

LOOKING BACK: Ambrose battled a loose-handling race car all afternoon as he finished 25th at Michigan. "We got our car a lot better at the end, but we just got too far behind early on," said Ambrose. "We just need to get our downforce program better. But we are already looking forward to Sonoma and what we are capable of there."

ETC.: Lynda Petty, Richard's wife, has been named the first quarter recipient of the National Motorsports Press Association's Spirit Award. Lynda, 72, died in late March. She was one of the founding members of the Racing Wives Auxiliary, a charitable organization that provided assistance to those in need within the racing community. The NMPA Spirit Award is designed to recognize character and achievement in the face of adversity, sportsmanship and contributions to motorsports. Each year, quarterly winners are chosen, and an overall winner is selected by a vote of the NMPA membership.

78 MARTIN TRUEX JR., Chevrolet

Team: Furniture Row Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 25th, 115 points out of the top 10. Lost one spot last week.

SONOMA RECORD: Won the race last year after leading 51 laps.

LOOKING AHEAD: Truex said he is really looking forward to this weekend. "When it comes to winning, this is one race that has been circled on the schedule," said the defending race champion. "We had a successful test session at VIR (Virginia International Raceway). So you can't help feeling optimistic."

LOOKING BACK: Truex's bad luck continued Sunday at Michigan when he got squeezed into the wall on lap eight. His car was badly damaged and he lost three laps while the crew made repairs to the car. As a result, Truex finished 37th. "I don't know what to say right now," said a frustrated Truex. "We were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. It's disheartening because we felt that we had a potential top-10 car but didn't get a chance to show it. When you have an accident that early it sure makes for a long day. I mean a very long day."

ETC.: Truex admits "returning to Sonoma this year will be pretty special to me. Winning on the Sonoma road course last year was a major highlight of my career. It will be nice to get to an event with the label as the defending champion."

41 KURT BUSCH, Chevrolet

Team: Stewart-Haas Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 26th, 131 points out of the top 10. Gained one spot last week.

SONOMA RECORD: Has finished first, third and fourth respectively in the last three races.

LOOKING AHEAD: Busch said, "Sonoma has always been a sentimental favorite to me - I think that track helped put me on the map when I won there in a Southwest Tour race in 1999. The garage area sometimes grumbles when we go to road courses. I think that mentality has changed. Everybody has to accept that road courses are part of the NASCAR culture. There are the few that still think Sonoma is a tough track and they don't find it quite as appealing as Watkins Glen (the other road course on the schedule). For me, I grew up racing there, so it's easy for me to see it as part of the NASCAR culture."

LOOKING BACK: Busch finished 13th at Michigan. "We had a fast Haas Automation Chevrolet all day, but we let a potentially great finish slip away there at the end," said Busch. "We took advantage of restarts to gain a lot of track position, and everything looked to be on track (for a top-five finish) until the very end. We ended up a little short on fuel to make it to the end and got loose on our final 20 laps. It's a tough pill to swallow, but we had good speed today and made some good adjustments. Unfortunately, the strategy didn't play out the way we'd hoped."

ETC.: Busch said he likes "this portion of the schedule because it's a good time to capitalize on the things that you did wrong during the first portion of the year. This is when a team starts to come together and show its strength."